Charlie Brown and his wife Peggy fought the battle of the bulge for years. At 293 pounds, Peggy was unable to control her diabetes and could not get relief from her arthritis.
Charlie's arthritic knees could no longer support his 367 pounds. He had to wear knee braces to walk. And he was a borderline diabetic with erratic blood sugars.
"You don't see men my size live to be old men," Charlie said last August three weeks after having bariatric surgery. "I have a two-year-old grandson to keep up with. I did this for him too."
The Browns had tried all kinds of diets to lose the weight without success. They felt surgery was their last hope. Both had Vertical Banding Gastric By-pass at St. Vincent Carmel Hospital. Peggy's surgery was July 6. Charlie's was Aug. 3.
A thorough medical and emotional evaluation must be done to determine medical need and reasonable chance for success before an insurance company will agree to pay for the surgery. The cost was about $27,000 each for Peggy and Charlie.
They had to consult with a medical doctor, a surgeon, a psychiatrist and a nutritionist. That process can take two to four months. The normal dietary intake and digestive process is drastically altered by the surgery.
Gastric surgery for weight control has been available for over 40 years. The old type produced weight loss by causing malabsorption. The problem with this surgery was that it caused a loss of essential nutrients and its side effects were unpredictable and sometimes fatal. That form is no longer used.
Surgeons now use techniques that produce weight loss mainly by restricting how much the stomach can hold. This is often combined with modified gastric bypass procedures that somewhat limit calorie and nutrient absorption. But results of these procedures are more predictable and manageable. Side effects may persist for some patients.
The stomach can hold about three pints of food, about 48 ounces. Charlie said before his surgery his stomach had a 44 ounce capacity. The surgery reduced it to two ounces. Now, nearly five months later, he can eat four ounces and expects to reach a capacity of 8 ounces.
He's lost 104 pounds and would like to lose 13 more although no specific goals were set. Charlie said his ideal weight supposedly is 190 pounds but at 6 feet 5 inches, he thinks that's not a realistic healthy weight for him.
"Peggy says she'd like to lose 264 pounds," Charlie joked, "but I won't leave."
Peggy is happy with her 100-pound loss. Her only goal is to be healthy. Both Browns feel good and are pleased with the results of their surgery.
Charlie used to take oxycontin pain medicine frequently for his arthritis. He has not taken any since the surgery. He no longer wears a brace to walk and his blood sugar readings are normal.
Before the surgery, Peggy took both oral diabetic medications and insulin shots daily but was still unable to regulate her blood sugar. She now takes no diabetic pills or shots and has normal blood sugar readings.
"It's been pretty successful for me," Charlie said. "I still have to be pretty careful with what I eat. It's a trial and error thing."
Charlie says he has to stay away from foods like breads, grease, some meats -- especially beef -- carbonation and yeast.
"Some days I'm a little tired," Charlie said. "But I take vitamin supplements and I think I'm pretty healthy. I slip sometimes. I goofed up with Christmas dinners. If you eat too much, you get nauseated and vomit. But Peggy and I feel good and the doctor says we're doing great."
On Monday: Local man reduces weight through diet.